by Countable | 4.25.19
What’s the story?
Pundits from both sides of the aisle are calling on Congress to impeach Attorney General William Barr for his handling of the Mueller report.
- Barr provided Congress and the public with a four-page summary of the "principal conclusions" from Mueller's report in late March, which many – including several members of Mueller's team – claim minimized the president’s culpability.
- Then, on the morning of the redacted report’s release, Barr held a pre-emptive press conference in which, Jonathan Chait wrote in New York Magazine, “Barr acted like Trump’s defense lawyer, the job he had initially sought, rather than as an attorney general."
"His aggressive spin seemed designed to work in the maximal number of repetitions of the ‘no collusion’ mantra, in accordance with his boss’s talking points, at the expense of any faithful transmission of the special counsel’s report.”
What are people saying?
- “Barr has so thoroughly betrayed the values of his office that voting to impeach and remove him is almost obvious,” Chait wrote.
- In the report, special counsel Robert Mueller wrote that Congress has the ability to address obstruction of justice by the president:
"With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a President's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice." (p.220)
- Yet Barr, Chait wrote, “interposed his own judgment” when offering up an “incredible statement for why Trump’s behavior was excusable” during the press conference.
Here's what Barr said:
“[T]here is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks,” Barr said. “Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation.”
Barr then praised the president for taking “no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation.”
- “Sincere?” Chait wrote. “How can Barr use that word to describe the mentality of a man whose own staffers routinely describe him in the media as a pathological liar? Trump repeatedly lied about Russia’s involvement in the campaign, and his own dealings with Russia. And he also, contra Barr, repeatedly denied the special counsel access to witnesses by dangling pardons to persuade them to withhold cooperation.”
- Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, who describes herself as a “conservative blogger,” called for Barr’s impeachment following the second day of Barr's hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee in early April.
- Elizabeth Holtzman, who served in Congress for four terms as a Democratic representative from New York, wrote in the Hill that Barr’s “blatant partisanship disqualifies him from continuing as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States.”
Holtzman continues: “Neither Congress nor the public will trust that he has been objective and fair in what he has decided to make public of the report, nor will they believe that he can handle any further issues surrounding wrongdoing by President Trump with integrity.”
- Not everyone agreed with this criticism of Barr or his press conference. The Pittsburgh-Gazette ran an op-ed titled “Taking the high road: William Barr handled the Mueller report with class” with the subhead “The attorney general deserves praise for trying to provide transparency to his role in this toxic drama.”
“Mr. Barr’s effort to provide transparency to his role in this toxic drama may have been quixotic,” the Gazette wrote, “but he deserves praise for trying — and for refusing to feed the fire.”
What do you think?
Do you want your reps to support efforts to impeach Attorney General William Barr? Take action above and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.
(Photo Credit: DOJ)